Dar and I are driving downtown. My teeth are gnashed, knowing what’s coming. Oh God, this is going to be a nightmare.

I pass Shattuck and University and the McDonald’s there. I get lucky. There’s a parking space on University right next to where we’re going. I park. I get Dar out of his car seat. I take his hand. We walk into our haircutting place.

Oh praise Jesus and all the saints, it’s empty.

I see the nice lady who cuts my hair. No idea what her name is, but for the sake of this story let’s call her Lin.

“Hi,” I say sheepishly. “This guy needs a haircut before school starts.”

“Yeah,” Lin replies in her no-nonsense way. “I’ve done it two times before. Don’t you normally bring your wife with you?”

“Uh, yes but she works on weekdays. I thought it might be better to come in on a weekday because you wouldn’t have any customers to hear him screaming.”

“Mmmm,” she says.

“Do you have any customers coming in?”

“Who knows?”

“Maybe we could make an appointment…”

“You don’t understand, I never know when customers are coming. Now is as good a time as any.”

“So, should we…?”

“Put him on the seat.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you. And if someone shows up, we can just leave. I mean, we can just see how far we get. We don’t have to finish today.”

“Mmmm,” she says.

Dar loves looking at himself in the mirror. So he does, smiling and giggling. Lin puts the cape-cover on him. (What is that called?) Dar tries to snap it off, I keep rapping his hands down.

The trick for me is to hold down Dar’s arms in a way where he doesn’t really feel me holding down his arms. Because then he’ll feel something’s wrong. I try this.

Lin says, “Last time he was in your lap.”

“Oh!” I say. “I can do that again.”

So I get him on my lap. Just like at the dentist. How we’ll be doing this when he’s 15, I have no idea.

I gotta say, things begin well. Lin’s got a serious strategy, based on our previous times. She uses the clippers in the back and doesn’t get too close to his head, so he can’t really see or feel what she’s doing at first. He’s actually loving it. Which is great, because he normally hates even having his head washed, never mind his hairs cut. Lin asks me to tilt his head this way and that, and for the first five minutes that’s actually easy. Wow, best haircut ever?

Dar keeps smiling. Customers walk in. Uh oh. Are we past the point of no return?

At a certain point, Lin has to get out the scissors. At first her cuts are gentle and general. But then…she has to make closer cuts. And Dar starts to feel his head being slightly pulled. And he starts making “unh” noises. Not horrible at first.

I say, “Dar it doesn’t actually hurt!” I always say this. It never does anything.

Lin’s scissors get closer. Dar’s resistance noises get louder. His body flails harder. I now have to work harder to keep his hands down. This is when I’m thankful for his cerebral palsy, because his left hand can’t really resist me. His right arm feels like a moving car though.

Now Lin gets out the clippers again. She wants the back of his head just right, and blended properly. Now Dar is just screaming. I tell Lin we can stop if she wants. She says “Just a little more.”

Scream. Scream 2 the sequel. Scream 3 the end of the trilogy. Scream 4 the reboot.

I say, “Dar you’re scaring the customers. Stop scaring the customers.” Dar is screaming like there’s a socket wrench inside his mouth slowly pulling out his teeth. Sometimes I tell people that he’s autistic. This time I don’t bother. Sometimes I feel I need the excuse, sometimes I feel I shouldn’t have to make it. I have no idea what determines which feels I’ll feel.

If you paid for a Halloween House of Horrors and it sounded like this, you’d say, “I think they overdid the screaming a little.”

Lin is doing some kind of miraculous work, moving this way and that with clippers and scissors. It’s like she’s fixing a 747 airplane while it’s in flight. She’s great!

Finally, finally, it’s over. Dar stands like he was sitting on a hot oven. Lin takes off the cape-cover. Dar rubs the little hairs off of his neck.

I apologize to the customers. One of them jokes as he rises and walks to the now-empty seat, “Now I’m scared!” He and Lin and I all laugh. Whew.

Lin normally charges $17. I hand her a $20 and a $5.

In terms of hair length, it’s Dar’s shortest haircut ever. I hope it’s obvious why. Nobody wants to do this any more times than necessary.

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I like it!

I text wifey. “Ready to have your mind blown?”

She texts back, “Is Dar talking?”
Well, no. I text a photo.

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When she gets home, we both agree that he looks like a different kid.

I ask a horrible question, but you know, horrible questions are part of our lives. “Does he look more, or less, special-needs?”

Wifey says, “He looks different.”

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